“My baby’s all grown up,” mused Christopher Mims, retweeting an unconfirmed announcement posted nineteen minutes earlier that Scienceblogs.com, the site he helped create and launch for the Seed Media Group in January 2006, would be sold to National Geographic.
Retraction Watch’s Ivan Oransky had the scoop. Just after 3 p.m. on Monday, one of Scienceblogs.com’s most popular bloggers, Pharyngula’s PZ Myers, broke the news that:
Scienceblogs is going to be folded into a new organization sometime soon — basically, we’ve been bought. I can’t discuss all of the details just yet, but let’s just say it is a prestigious national magazine with a healthy bottom line that will do us a lot of good.
At 6 p.m., Oransky had even hotter gossip:
Retraction Watch has learned, from a source familiar with the negotiations, that the buyer is National Geographic. We don’t have any details at this point, and Nat Geo has not returned a request for comment, but we are confident in reporting this We’ll add more details as we learn them.
On Tuesday morning, Oranksy followed-up after having obtained a recording of a conference call between ScienceBlogs management and bloggers and various members of National Geographic senior management. It turns out Seed is retaining ownership of the site with National Geogrpahic assuming control of operations, editorial content, and ad sales by June 1 of this year.
“From this point forward, it will be National Geographic leading the charge and managing the website on a day-to-day basis, while ownership of the property remains with SEED media group,” its chief financial officer and vice president of finance and operation’s Vera Scavcic said on the call.
It will take a while to sort out the finer details, of course, but the reaction on Twitter following Oransky’s initial tweet about the deal was instantaneous.
“Now I get to write the totally uncensored super-secret history of Scienceblogs. Only ten people will read it, but, oh boy,” Mims, now a blogger at Grist among other things, quipped a moment after his first tweet. Thirty-eight minutes later, at about 6:45 on Monday evening, he decided to do it, reasoning, “The portion that won’t get me sued shouldn’t take but 5 minutes to bang out.”
So began the engrossing, hour-long tale, told over the course of over sixty well-crafted tweets, under the hashtag #SBHistory (the tweets are condensed into paragraphs, with the hashtags removed, but otherwise unedited).
SB was born in a meeting btwn myself and Adam Bly, who has probably trademarked his name so he can sue anyone who says it aloud. Seed was flush with money at the time, and we were looking to expand. I was newly hired, times were good. We were looking for ways to build traffic to, of all places, Seedmagazine.com. It was impossible not to notice all the excellent science blogs that were then scattered across Blogger and self-hosted sites.
Mims went on to explain that he had his eye on Myers—an associate professor of biology at the University of Minnesota, Morris—whose Pharyngula blog was already very popular:
I wanted to have PZ and all the other science bloggers blog alongside us on SeedMagazine.com. The idea was, journalism and blogging were the same thing in different formats. This was a quasi-radical idea at the time. Obviously e.g. Wired, The Atlantic, The Guardian, Discover and zillions of other outlets have gone on to realize that dream. But that wasn’t what our fearless leader envisioned. He wanted a totally separate thing.
This is the part of the story where I elide a bunch of biz details because a) boring b) I probably said I’d never disclose them. So ScienceBlogs was born as a wholly owned subsidiary of Seed Media Group. Look it up: it’s based in Delaware. Here’s how we chose the initial invitees to SB: We let the intern do it. No one else had the time. It was basically just me and a tech person (whose name I’ll elide) at that point anyway. Intern made a spreadsheet including estimated traffic. We sorted by that field, invited the top 20. We also threw in some of his personal faves, lifting a handful of blogs out of obscurity. I mean, I looked at all of them, it wasn’t completely hands off. A surprising number of bloggers said no right away. I’m looking at you @BadAstronomer :)